Published on Tuesday, 05 February 2013 14:29
Media conference on judicial and legal affairs in progress (Photo-EMG)
The government appears to be willing to allow the 2008 Constitution to be amended as the chair of its Judicial and Legal Affairs Committee, Thura Aung Ko, called on those who want to do so to be specific in their requests.
“Please mention the points that should be amended. We will have to strive to amend the undemocratic points,” he told a conference about judicial and legal affairs on Saturday.
One participant at the conference – which included representatives of government, business, law and the media – pointed out that there were four main powers in a democratic nation, but the fourth pillar, the media, was not mentioned in the 2008 Constitution. He said that because the media’s role was to monitor the other three pillars it should be protected in the Constitution.
Supreme Court advocate Ko Ni said it was necessary to amend Article 354, which lists rights including the right to participate in “peaceful processions”.
He said that this right had been violated last year. Ko Ni said that although the Constitution allows peaceful gatherings and marches, permission to do so must be obtained in advance from the police major of the township in which the gathering will occur.
“This is contrary to the Constitution,” he said, pointing out that 10 townships filed lawsuits against youths who staged peaceful walks on International Human Rights Day. The phrase “to ask for permission from the police major” is not in the Constitution, Ko Ni said.
Minister of Home Affairs Lt-General Ko Ko said some articles had been inserted into the charter for security. Khin Maung Win said that requests to amend articles contrary to the democratic spirit of the Constitution must be submitted to relevant bodies.
During her visit to the United States last month Aung San Suu Kyi called for the charter to be amended to make it more democratic. Specifically, she pointed to an article that stipulates that a president cannot be married to a foreign national or have children who are foreign nationals. Suu Kyi suggested the article was inserted to deny her an opportunity to run for president. This is undemocratic, she said.
Amending the Constitution is difficult. First a bill to amend it must be submitted to Parliament. Twenty percent of Parliament’s members must support this move before the bill can be submitted. Once submitted it requires support of 75 percent of members to pass. Next, a national referendum must be held and a majority of voters must support the constitutional amendment for it to take effect.
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